How to Train Your Dog to Eat by Himself

How to Train Your Dog to Eat by Himself
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-4 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

There is nothing worse than a dog who refuses to eat on his own. When you have a "fussy" pup, it can feel as though you have little to no control over when he eats, how much he eats, or for that matter when he eats. When your pup is little, hand feeding him might be okay, but you need to get past this point as quickly as possible to ensure you have more control over his eating habits as well as his potty habits.

There is a controversy over which is better: "free feeding", in which there is always food in your dog's bowl that allows him to eat whenever he feels like it or "meal feeding", where you establish specific meal times when your dog is expected to eat. There are good and bad points for both types of feeding styles. and most vets recommend you put your dog on a feeding schedule. Not only does this help to establish you in the dominant role, but it also makes it much easier for you to observe his eating habits and how much he is or isn't eating.

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Defining Tasks

As a human being, you are used to eating on a relatively set schedule of three meals a day. While your dog may not need three meals a day, it is important for him to know when he is supposed to be eating and to do so at that time. Here in the U.S., we face a growing epidemic of human obesity and at the same time, there is a growing problem with canine obesity. By taking full control of when your dog eats and how much he eats, you can help prevent this from happening to your furry friend.

Another beautiful thing about teaching your dog to eat by himself at set times is that this can help to regulate his bowel movements. The big thing to remember is that you are teaching your dog to recognize when it is meal time and that he doesn’t have time to waste once you put the bowl down in front of him. Bear in mind that if you allow your dog to "free eat" or "graze" it could take several days before you realize he is not eating properly.

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Getting Started

You won't need a ton of supplies to get started training your dog to eat by himself. The most important thing to remember is that it can take a little while for your pup to make the switch from being hand fed to eating out of his bowl when it is meal time. You will need:

  • A food bowl: Every dog needs his own food bowl.
  • Food: Stock up on the food you plan to feed him.
  • Treats: You will need some way to reward your dog for getting things right.
  • Patience: it takes time to train your dog to learn to eat on his own when it is dinner time.
  • The right place: To make this training more successful, you need to have a specific spot to put his food dish every time. Placing it in different places will only lead to confusion and problems with getting him to eat.
  • Praise: You can never give your pup too much praise when he gets new training right.

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The Sit First Method

Most Recommended

2 Votes

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Most Recommended

2 Votes

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1

Dish it up

Pour your dog's food into his bowl and raise it over his head.

2

Sit

Command your dog to sit.

3

Serve

Place bowl in front of him on the floor. If he begins to eat, praise him.

4

Repeat

Repeat this process until each time you put his food in front of him he eats.

The Count to Five Method

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1

Invitation

Start by asking your dog, "Are you hungry?"

2

First course

Place half the amount of food you want your dog to eat daily in his bowl.

3

Serve it up

Hold the bowl in front of his nose and then place it in the special spot reserved for his bowl.

4

Countdown

Count to five, if he starts eating let him finish and give him plenty of praise.

5

Wait for later

If not, pick up the bowl and wait for 12 hours before trying again.

6

Try again

Repeat the process in another 12 hours until he eats on his own each time you place his bowl on the floor. Be sure to give him tons of praise each time he eats until the process becomes a routine.

The Eat on Command Method

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1

Dish it up

Fill your pup's bowl with food.

2

Dinner bell

Give your dog the ‘come’ command, assuming he didn't come running at the sound of food being poured into his bowl.

3

Table manners

Have your dog sit and slowly lower the food dish to the ground in front of him. If he tries to get to the bowl before it hits the ground, raise it back up and make him sit again.

4

Repeat

Repeat until your dog sits and waits patiently until you place the bowl on the ground. Then give him the command ‘eat’ or ‘Okay’. His reward will be his dinner along with plenty of praise.

5

Be consistent

Follow this exact same process each time you feed your dog and he will soon come to understand when it is dinner time and that this is the only time he will be allowed to eat. At this point, you should be able to put the bowl down and walk away while he eats by himself.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 11/19/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Thor

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German Shepherd

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10 Months

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Question

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He always refuses to eat. I have to force feed him everytime. He will eat on its own only once after 1-2 days of hunger and still not finish his meal

June 18, 2022

Thor's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dev, This sound like is may be medically related. I would start by speaking with your vet and investigating common things like parasites, infection, ect...and also less common things like a food ingredient allergy, bacterial imbalance needing probiotics, or tooth issue. I am not a vet so consult with your vet. To get him to eat dog food again, I suggest mixing his food with something he likes the night before feeding him. Start with a higher quantity of food he likes and a bit of dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food he likes overtime. Test out freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety first. If he likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of his dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if he will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and he doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. If he likes the kibble topper, you can also feed something like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost long term - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated overnight (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though). Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Put the kibble into fun toys like a kong wobble - sometimes a dog will want what's viewed as a treat. Once pup is eating out of the kong again, you can actually unscrew the top from that container and use the bottom half as a regular food bowl to transition pup to a food bowl they have a fun association with. If there is a medical issue, this isn't likely to work until the medical issue is addressed though is eating itself makes pup feel bad. If pup is just picky, pup might find this motivating. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 20, 2022

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coco

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Rottweiler

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1 Year

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Question

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my dog refuse to eat his own food(only chapati and milk/curd) rest he eats on his own

Nov. 23, 2021

coco's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Devanshi, Is pup only being fed chapati and milk curd? If so, pup's GI system might be upset by that food. It's also lacking many vital nutrients pup needs, so pup may be refusing to eat it because they associate it with painful GI symptoms. If you have the ability to switch pup's food to something with protein that's not milk or bean based, ideally something like chicken and rice or dog food, I would try switching pup's food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 26, 2021


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